Ulster Farmers’ Union president warns of Brexit risks for members

Ictu in North also in favour of remaining in EU

The new president of the Ulster Farmers' Union has said he has "huge concerns" over what might happen to the financial support packages Northern Ireland farmers receive from the European Union if Brexit were to materialise.

Barclay Bell, who farms on an eighth-generation farm at Rathfriland in County Down and was elected as president this week of the organisation which represents farmers and growers in the North, has said he believes, in the absence of a compelling argument to leave - that farmers would be saying stay in.

The UFU has said it intends to hold a debate in June when it will invite both the In and Out camps to brief farmers.

But officially the UFU position at the moment is that “it is up to each individual how they wish to vote”.


One Mid-Ulster farmer who has already made up his mind says that without the EU subsidy he receives he “wouldn’t survive”.


Colin Gibson, who grazes sheep and cows on Meenard Mountain in the Sperrins, said he trusts EU more than politicians in Westminster to look after Northern Ireland farmers.

“Why would they care what happens to us all the way out here? If people vote in England and everywhere else to leave the EU then a lot of farms here will be closed very soon after.

“The money won’t be coming into the economy and we won’t be getting much of what they’re left with,” Mr Gibson said.

Separately, Peter Bunting, the assistant general secretary of Ictu in Belfast, said workers in the North were better protected as a result of Northern Ireland being part of the EU.

“Our membership of the EU acts to underpin workers’ rights across the UK, and if the Tory right succeed in dragging Northern Ireland away from the EU then it would be easier for them to drag down the legal entitlements won by workers all across the UK,” Mr Bunting said.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business